Pinned to the wall by her mother’s work table was a postcard photograph of the most beautiful woman in history, a great actress of silent film tragically dead at a young age of the 1919 influenza: Vera Kholodnaya, whose funeral cortege Musya’s mother had glimpsed from the very front of a curb, one of thousands of mourners thronging Odessa’s streets on that mournful occasion. Musya wanted to be exactly like this woman—except she would live. She’d live and thrive and be even more famous, more beautiful; she might even go to America like Anna Sten and make movies in Hollywood.
From an old page at the Jewish Museum website:
Vera Kholodnaya (August 30, 1893 – February 16, 1919) was the first Russian silent movie star. Although the majority of her films do not survive, she was once a ubiquitous presence in Russian movie theaters. By 1917, a new Kholodnaya feature was released every three weeks. Her meteoric rise to fame came to an abrupt halt when she died suddenly at the age of 25. While there is speculation surrounding the circumstances of her death, the official records state that she succumbed to the Spanish flu during the 1919 pandemic. Her funeral, which took place in Odessa, was attended by thousands and recorded for posterity. Ironically it is this role, performed in death, by which she is best remembered.
Anna Stein (Sten) lived to be 85. She was born in Kiev and made movies in the Soviet Union and Germany before Samuel Goldwyn decided to make her the next Greta Garbo and brought her to Hollywood in 1934. A few films later, she was being called “Goldwyn’s folly.” Not the career she deserved, but a good long life. She died in Manhattan.
Girl With a Hatbox, this silent film she made with Boris Barnet in 1927, is deservedly well known and very funny. The opening scenes in the snow are wonderful.